When I turned off my shower water this morning I heard water running in the bathroom sink. I didn’t remember turning the water on, but it was on. There are only two possible explanations. The spirit of a dead human turned the water on (a ghost!), or the plumbing has come to life and has a will of its own.
In favor of the ghost explanation is the fact that the house was built in 1912; plenty of time for spirits to gather and cause mischief. If I did some research I might well find that someone died in the house, or nearby, at some time. As for sentient plumbing, we have few if any reports of such things, but plenty of ghost stories.
I heard someone use a similar either/or line of reasoning on a TV news program once. A reporter was interviewing a man who ran a small religious group and claimed that he was the reincarnation of Jesus and several other spiritual teachers from history. He told the reporter, “Either I’m crazy, or what I’m telling you is true.” The reporter was skeptical but didn’t bother to mention the obvious third option –he might be a con man. That one was skipped right over. The guru might love wielding power over his acolytes more than he loves the truth.
It’s the dang false dilemma fallacy, so often used by promoters of crazy. The options are rarely restrained to just two. For example, look at all the other possibilities for my running water mystery:
(1) One of the cats could have opened the bathroom door without me noticing, crept in, managed to muscle the faucet on, and crept back out again, closing the door behind her.
(2) Someone could have climbed to the roof outside the second floor bathroom, slid open the window, eased themselves through the opening, turned on the water, and exited the same way.
(3) Same scenario as above, except that a raccoon did it.
(4) Maybe in my hazy, just-woke-up state, I turned on the water and forgot to turn it off before getting in the shower.
Add these four options to the smart pipes hypothesis and the ghost hypothesis, and I think we can all agree that the most likely explanation is the raccoon. I have, after all, seen a raccoon on the roof before. Raccoons have hands, not paws. Case closed.